Joe Raiola: Nonprofit President Helps Cancer Fighters Find Harmony Through John Lennon's Music

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BY PAT KIERNAN

Even for just a small audience, Judith Caporale gives a passionate performance.

A proud Joe Raiola watches as she does what she loves.

She wasn't sure she'd ever be able to sing and dance again after doctors discovered a brain tumor in 2012.

Raiola's "John Lennon Real Love Project" is a free songwriting workshop for cancer fighters and survivors. 

Since joining, Caporale has built confidence and once again feels at home in the spotlight. 

"This has given me life," she said.

Raiola is the president and artistic director of the nonprofit "Theatre Within." He launched these workshops in 2014, first at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and now at Gilda's Club in Greenwich Village.

Raiola's love for John Lennon inspired him to use his music as medicine, lifting the participants' spirits through song.

"One of the things about John is, he was not just a great artist and a singer/songwriter and a rockstar, he was an activist, and he had an important message, and part of that message was giving a damn," Raiola said.

Participants are given a guitar and, over the course of a few months, learn the basics of songwriting through Lennon's music.

"The workshop participants are really inspired by John because he frees them. He gives them permission to write about whatever they want to write about," Raiola said.

Raiola says watching people’s growth over the course of the workshop is proof that life doesn't have to stop after a cancer diagnosis.

"I'm touched by people's bravery to be fully expressed. And it is a leap of faith, the creative journey of the heart, of the voice and to be full and to take that risk of really being yourself on the page or on the stage."

So, for helping these cancer fighters find harmony in their lives, Joe Raiola is the latest New Yorker of the Week.